|Name:||Charles William Burkart, Jr.|
|Rank/Branch:||Colonel/US Air Force|
DaNang Airfield, South Vietnam
|Date of Birth:||27 May 1931|
|Home of Record:||Selkirk, NY|
|Date of Loss:||13 June 1966|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
Click coordinates to view (4) maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Everett O. Kerr (missing)|
SYNOPSIS: The B57 Canberra
was a light tactical bomber that first arrived in Southeast Asia in 1964.
As a veteran of operations Rolling Thunder in North Vietnam and Steel Tiger
in Laos, it played an important roll in interdicting communist supplies moving
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Some of the B57's from the 13th Bomb Squadron
located at DaNang and the 8th Tactical Bomb Squadron at Phan Rang, South
Vietnam had also been equipped with infrared sensors for night strike operations
in Tropic Moon II and III in the spring of 1967
The Mu Gia Pass was one of two major ports of entry into Laos used by the communists. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.
On 13 June 1966 then Lt. Col. Charles W. Burkart, Jr., pilot; and 1st Lt. Everett O. Kerr, navigator; comprised the crew of a B-57 Canberra in a flight of 3 aircraft conducting a night strike mission against Route 911, the primary road running through the Mu Gia Pass and south in Khammouan Province, Laos. The mission identifier for this flight was Steel Tiger.
The three strike aircraft departed DaNang approximately 0100 hours. Prior to reaching the target area, the flight was forced to separate due to bad weather. Once Lt. Col. Burkhart's B-57 arrived in the target area, it rendezvoused with the rest of the flight, the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC) responsible for controlling all air operations in this region and the Forward Air Controller (FAC) responsible for directing their strike mission. After checking in with the ABCCC, the strike aircraft were handed over to the FAC who directed them to proceed with their briefed mission.
At 0154 hours, the last known radio contact was established with Lt. Col. Burkart and 1st Lt. Kerr. The Canberra's crew transmitted that they were roughly 8 miles southeast of the city of Ban Som Peng at that time. Further, they did not indicate they were experiencing any difficulty with the aircraft or the mission.
During the course of the operation, other aircrews tried to establish radio contact with Lt. Col. Burkart and 1st Lt. Kerr, but were unsuccessful in doing so. When the ABCCC was also unable to establish radio contact, the pilot requested an aerial search and rescue (SAR) operation be initiated. In the poor visibility and darkness, the other aircrews saw no parachutes. They also heard no emergency radio beepers emanating from the jungle below.
At first light the SAR aircraft searched the sector in and around the area of last contact. When no trace of the missing aircraft or its crew was found along Route 911 or in the surrounding jungle covered mountains, the SAR effort was suspended. Because of the intense enemy presence throughout the entire region, no ground search was possible. At the time the formal search was terminated, both Charles Burkart and Everett Kerr were listed Missing In Action.
At the time of last contact, the Canberra was operating just to the west of Route 911 as it ran through a densely forested long and very narrow valley with steep, rugged mountains rising up on both sides. The Xe Rangfai River weaved its way through the rugged mountains less than ¼ mile east of Route 911 at the location of loss. The entire sector was heavily defended and densely populated with communist forces.
The location was approximately 3 miles west of a Binh Tram, a way station used by communist forces as they moved along the Ho Chi Minh Trail; 8 miles northwest of Ban Thapachon, 13 miles south-southeast of Ban Senphon; 20 miles southwest of the Lao/North Vietnamese border and 24 miles south of the Mu Gia Pass. It was also 58 miles west-southwest of the major North Vietnamese port city of Dong Hoi.
If Charles Burkart and Everett Kerr died in the loss of their aircraft, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, they most certainly could have been captured by enemy troops known to be operating throughout this part of eastern Laos, and their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.
Since the end of the Vietnam War, over 21,000 reports of American Prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.